The Death Penalty is My Biggest Spiritual Struggle
A lethal injection chamber. Photo credit: 2009 T Woodard/flickr. Usage does not represent endorsement by the photographer.
“An eye for an eye.” It is one of the earliest forms of justice we know of. You hurt someone? You, in turn, get hurt back. A kill for a kill. It seems fair, right? But then Jesus makes his entrance into this world. We no longer have to pay for our sins with our own lives. Now the “He who is without sin, cast the first stone” line of thinking comes into play. Forgiveness enters our world and with that I find myself engulfed in the biggest intellectual struggle.
As Christians, are we to be for or against the death penalty? Here is where my battle begins.
I believe in grace. Any of you who have read this blog have read my beliefs on this subject ad nauseum. I believe every human being is worthy of God’s forgiveness. Jesus died for everyone - not just the select few. His blood covers every single sin. The Bible plainly states all of this.
Frequently I ask myself, what gives us the right to play judge and juror with someone’s life? Jesus makes it pretty clear to all of us in the New Testament; “judge not lest you be judged” and since it was him up there on that cross dying for those sins I believe he gets the final say. In the end I know that God is the only judge.
At least I know those things in my head. However, my heart – well my heart has its own way of thinking.
I think capital punishment works great. Every killer you kill never kills again.” -Bill Mayer
I came from a very pro death penalty household. If you made the choice to forever negatively change someone’s life – you should die. It seemed completely fair. I felt proud that we were for ridding this world of scumbags and was completely shocked when I heard that people were actually against killing such horrific losers.
I remember, vividly, sitting in my Grandpa’s den watching Ted Bundy’s last interview with Dr. James Dobson, prior to his execution. I can almost recall the anticipation and excitement we felt then knowing that this murderer was going to get what he deserved. The families of the ones he killed would finally get some justice.
I remember having a teacher at my private school confess to the class that he was angry at the idea that Ted Bundy would be sharing Heaven with us because he asked for forgiveness before he died. At the time of this teacher’s confession, I could feel in my heart that I was angry too. God should not forgive him. Bundy’s sin felt unforgivable - and I began to wonder if Mr. Bundy would really share Heaven with us. Certainly that was false. Grace could not be for him too.
That was until I truly met Jesus and truly learned about his grace. Not just on a Sunday school flannel board, but really experienced it for myself, in my own life. I found out that grace is real, for every sin. That if it is only for a select few then who gets to be that judge? Grace has to be for everyone, for everything – or else it really is not grace.
There is no “but” when talking about grace, that’s how magnificent of a force it is.” -Max Dubinsky
Yet there is a “but” for me. And this is a big but: where in the hell is the justice here on earth?
I realize that God states very plainly “vengeance is mine” but how far does that really take us when the unthinkable happens?
What about the little girl who has her innocence stolen over and over again by a man who deems it appropriate? God forbid, but what if that is your little girl? How do we give her justice? How do you explain the fact that her life will never be the same again? Does telling her that Jesus loves and forgives the man help her at all? What if you try to comfort her nightmares and screaming cries with stories of grace?
I know that is what we are supposed to do – but I don’t want to. I want to look into her precious little eyes, the ones that are begging for answers, and tell her that this man will be punished. That this man will be killed so that he can NEVER hurt her again. I want to tell her, further, that this man will burn forever in hell. That what he did to her was so terrible even Jesus can’t love him.
But I can’t. Because there is grace and because of grace there is forgiveness.
Truthfully, there is a part of me that hates that.
What about the cold blooded murderer who kills just to get their fix? What if the one who happens to provide that fix happens to be your husband or your wife? What if you are left here to grieve and try to hold on when your loved one is ripped out of your life by someone else’s negative choice?
If that was my husband, my best friend, I would want that person to be killed in the worst possible way. I would throw grace out the window. Forgiveness? Yeah, right. My hurt and anger would swallow me up. I’d be in that court room. I’d chant for them to be killed.
Which I guess means I’m also for the death penalty.
Here is the rub. I don’t want to be for the death penalty. In my head I know it is wrong. I know that it is not the solution. Yet I can’t figure out a way to get my heart and my head to come to any sort of agreement on this one and it pains me so greatly. So I’m asking for your help.
How have you found answers? Are you for or against capital punishment? If you are pro capital punishment and you are a Christian, how do you reason out grace? If you are against this, how does one get justice?
I’m hoping that some of your comments can help me find peace in this battle.